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Egypt court orders release of more than 600 detainees swept up in crackdown

The prisoners include journalists, politicians and students who had been in pre-trial detention for over a year
A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt’s State Information Service on 11 February, 2020, shows the entrance of the Tora prison clinic in the Egyptian capital Cairo (AFP/file photo)

An Egyptian court on Tuesday ordered the release of hundreds of prisoners, including journalists, politicians and students who had been held in pre-trial detention for more than a year.

According to the lawyers and families of detainees, the Cairo Criminal Court had decided to release at least 600 prisoners, including journalists Sayed Abdellah, Haitham Hassan and blogger Mohamed Ibrahim, known as "Mohamed Oxygen".

It remained unclear when the detainess would be freed. 

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Magda Mubarak, the mother of Haitham Hassan, said that the Criminal Court decided to release her son after months of being held in pre-trial detention on charges of "publishing false news" and "joining a terrorist organisation". 

Some of those included in Tuesday's decision had been detained last year in protests sparked by whistleblower Mohamed Ali, who urged Egyptians to demostrate against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's rule over his alleged corruption and squandering of public funds. 

Sayed Abdellah had been detained for covering the events at the time. 

Mohamed Ibrahim had been arrested in 2019, after he was charged with "joining a terrorist organisation" and "misusing social media networks", as well as "publishing false news".

A list of those due to be released was published online. Many of them had been originally detained on charges such as broadcasting false information, misusing social media networks and aiding terrorist groups. 

Jubilation

News of the decision to release the prisoners had been met with jubilation online.

Khaled Ali, an Egyptian lawyer, tweeted that over 300 people had been released on Tuesday.

“The happiness of the families in front of the courts after we left was indescribable,” he said

Mona Seif, an Egyptian activist who has been campaigning for the release of her brother Alaa Abdel Fattah and her sister Sanaa, expressed her joy about the news.  

"The Twitter timeline is full of news of people being released," she said. "I pray that it carries on like this and they really are freed and can go home safely." 

Rights groups have estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners currently languish in Egyptian jails on politically motivated charges, while hundreds of others have died of medical negligence they suffered in custody.